New Delhi: The number of COVID-19 cases has been rising in several countries, including China, the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Brazil, and France. Amid the surge, India is bracing itself to contain the potential outbreak of Omicron sub-variant BF.7, with the centre advising the public to follow COVID appropriate behaviour with immediate effect. Speaking to NDTV on whether India is bound to face the threat of numbers being seen in China, Dr. N.K. Arora, Chairman of the COVID-19 Working Group, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), said that there was no need to panic over the fresh outbreak in the neighbouring country.
He said that India was taking precautionary and pre-emptive measures to fight against the potential rise in cases in the future.
The citizens and the whole COVID working group are going in for the whole process of activating high-level precautions so that we do not face a moment where we are scrambling for our preparedness. These preparations are also necessary because there is huge opacity on the current situation in China.
Dr. Arora said that among all the preparations, genomic surveillance was at the top of the list of COVID-19 activities the officials were involved in.
We are seeing various sub-variants circulating in different parts of the country. But with whatever filtered information we have received from the concerned officials, it is sure that people infected with these variants have been isolated and the necessary precautions have been taken.
Dr. Arora said that the new variants of COVID that are causing the outbreak in China are a mixed bag. He said that the Omicron sub-variant BF.7. was only present about 10-15 per cent. There are two important series of the virus that are present in high numbers – BN and BQ series, which account for 50 per cent of the cases in China.
About China’s current status, Dr. Arora said,
The coronavirus is creating havoc because the country is naive to this kind of outbreak. Secondly, the vaccine that their citizens received was probably not as effective as it should have been, despite getting more than two doses.
Dr. Arora said that India’s fight against the virus has been better due to several reasons. Throughout all the waves of coronavirus, there was exposure to natural infection, he said. Secondly, more than 90 per cent of individuals between 12 and the rest of the age range have received two primary doses, which gives a robust ‘hybrid immunity’ (immunity provided by a combination of infection and vaccination), he added.
Herd immunity is a complex matter. Let’s not go into that. What we have in India is strong hybrid immunity. India has seen waves after waves of infection and many people have got exposure to natural infection.
Bharat Biotech’s intranasal COVID vaccine ‘iNCOVACC’ is the new addition to COVID vaccines. iNCOVACC has been approved by the Union Health Ministry as a booster dose for emergency use in adults for both primary and booster shots.
Dr Arora said that anyone over the age of 18 can receive it. Speaking on whether people would require repeated doses of the vaccine, Dr. Arora said that at the moment, there is no evidence that repeated doses would be required.
The head of the country’s vaccine task force said that the nasal vaccine could not be administered to those who have taken a precaution or booster dose.
The nasal vaccine recommended as the first booster. For example, if a person has already received a precaution dose, it is not recommended for that person. It is for those who have not yet taken a precaution dose.
On December 22, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), issued an advisory on the impending COVID outbreak. IMA sent out an alert and made an appeal to the public to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour with immediate effect.
Earlier on December 21, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mansukh Mandaviya, chaired a high-level meeting with senior officials and experts to review the COVID-19 situation in India. The ministry advised the citizens to adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing a mask, washing hands, and maintaining social distance. The union ministry also directed the state and union territory governments to strengthen their surveillance.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.